Translating the Alliterative Morte Arthure into a Digital Medium: The Influence of Physical Context on Editorial Theory

By Carlson, John Ivor | Arthuriana, July 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Translating the Alliterative Morte Arthure into a Digital Medium: The Influence of Physical Context on Editorial Theory


Carlson, John Ivor, Arthuriana


This article examines the impact of a modern digital edition of the Alliterative Morte Arthure on editorial rationale, arguing that a change in physical context entails a deep change in the analytical context within which the poem is perceived. More precisely, I will illustrate the 'dynamic' potential of a digital edition, which allows an editor or reader to accommodate multiple reading texts reflecting different degrees of editorial certainty, and thus constitutes a significant advance compared to more traditional methods of presentation. Ultimately the possibility of contemplating such plural, open-ended and provisional possibilities within the context of a digital edition of the Morte Arthure widens the range of editorial and interpretive interaction with the text itself. (JIC)

Editing a literary work like the Morte Arthure is always a twofold act of translation, involving changes to its physical and analytical contexts. The physical movement from original documentary source to modern publication medium involves changes that should be obvious upon reflection, while analytical change results from applying editorial methods to a text. Editions of medieval poems, in other words, adjust the manuscript format to print conventions and introduce critical interventions ranging from simple notes to complex emendations. Both procedures mediate between reader and textual object, profoundly shaping an audience's experience, but modern editorial criticism has all but ignored the implications of the more obvious physical translation.1 Assuming the primacy of the codex for presenting textual scholarship, scholars have concerned themselves instead with determining what interventions make sense in a print environment.2 Following the advent of a viable digital alternative for publishing critical editions, however, the need to reevaluate judgments based on that assumption has become clear.

Unfortunately, despite newly invigorated interest in questions about physical context, superficial or derisive responses to technological advances have often impeded study of how digitization can alter editorial practice. In the earliest days of 'hypertext' research, for example, critics who took note of digital initiatives were apt to advocate extreme but simplistic positions. Apologists presented the electronic text as a panacea for all the perceived ills of traditional editing; skeptics questioned whether this 'fad' would contribute anything substantive to scholarship.3 Eventually, researchers like G. Thomas Tanselle and Jerome McGann moved beyond such partisan judgments and endorsed a moderate view situating digital editions within a broader scholarly tradition.4 Some disagreements persist, though, especially in regard to whether changes in publication medium and the process of physical translation can have concomitant effects on those analytical questions that previously dominated critical discussions of editorial theory.

The inability to resolve how much format shapes theory partly stems from a lack of evidence, especially case studies of how digitization influences the editing of works previously tackled in printed codices. While large archival projects have proven popular in digital editing, these collections are of limited use in isolating the impact of medium on theory given their lack of precedent and focus on the new format's more practical benefits.5 Lower publication costs and a capacity for massive facsimiles are certainly benefits of electronic presentation, but issues of economy and scale have only an indirect relationship to theory. The need for better case studies was therefore one of my inspirations when beginning work on an electronic edition of the Morte Arthure (hereafter, the DMA for 'digital Morte Arthure').6 Lacking the complex manuscript history of works commonly chosen for archival treatment but still posing interesting textual challenges, this poem seemed ideal for editorial experimentation. These experiments have confirmed that physical and analytical contexts are interdependent and that digital editions do encourage departures from print-bound editorial tendencies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Translating the Alliterative Morte Arthure into a Digital Medium: The Influence of Physical Context on Editorial Theory
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.